Buddhist Ethics and Hospice Care
What should we do when someone is on his/her deathbed? It’s the ultimate question, not only for the person who is still strong and healthy, but also for those who have had the experience of losing their beloved ones. For those engaged in hospice care, it is as important to bring spiritual peace to those in our care as it is to see to their physical comfort.
Talking about hospice care, we should not only care for patients’ physical comfort but more importantly, we should calm their minds and bring peace to them. As Plato once said, it is not good to heal the body of disease and to ignore the mind of ignorance because body and mind are connected with each other.
So first of all, it is important to cure the illness. But when the illness is beyond cure, the patients may have different attitudes toward their death. During their dying stage, if patients are Buddhists, they may not feel so terrible because they know it is not the end of life but rather a transition to the next life. In this case, we can remind them not to be sad because the light of afterlife will come soon. At the dying moment we’d better bless the patients with Buddha statues or the mantras of Buddha which is the best guidance for them.
Each of us will face death, but how one faces death varies from person to person. I always think, at my death, I wish to have Buddha statues beside me and people around me chanting the names and mantras of Buddha. And meanwhile, my mind can abide in the state of compassion and wisdom.
Likewise, I hope those who are undergoing the dying process can be taken care of in the Buddhist way, which is the most effective way. As one is dying, any wealth or any words of consolation cannot really help him. He is also aware that he cannot rely on anything in this world. So it’s better to help him stay calm and prepare for death. This is the best thing that people can do for him.
I notice in some hospitals, when patients are at the dying stage there are monks or laypersons who chant Buddha’s names or mantras for them. This is highly encouraged and I hope we can do the same thing to let the dying persons hear Buddha’s names or mantras. This is very essential to everyone.